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2020 Team Report: New York Giants

Last updated: Tue, Jul 14

Offensive Philosophy

Jason Garrett coached with the Dallas Cowboys for the last thirteen years, but will now be the Giants play-caller under first-year head coach Joe Judge. Garrett hasn't called plays since 2012, but he maintained a heavy hand in the Cowboys' offensive game-planning throughout his tenure. Garrett is part of the Air Coryell coaching tree, with a vertical passing attack meant to stretch opposing defenses. In order to effectively throw downfield, the team needs a consistent, effective rushing attack; which has also been a hallmark of Garrett's better teams. Like many modern systems, Garrett is promising a flexible system that utilizes the talents on the roster, versus force feeding any singular game plan. Joe Judge, who comes from the Patriots, will no doubt insist on a game-script dependent plan, too.

Quarterbacks

Starter: Daniel Jones
Backup(s): Colt McCoy, Alex Tanney, Case Cookus [R], Cooper Rush

Starting QB: When the Giants selected Daniel Jones with the 6th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, many thought it was a reach for an athletic player who was inconsistent as the Duke starting quarterback. Regardless, his selection guaranteed Eli Manning's days as the face of the franchise were numbered. Giants fans didn't have to wait long for the changing of the guard, as Jones took over in Week 3 and started 12 games (he missed two games in December with a minor injury), leading the Giants to a 3-9 record. As a rookie, Jones threw for 3,027 yards, 24 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions, while rushing for 279 yards. His 5.2% touchdown rate dwarfed Eli Manning's 3.6% over his last three seasons, although his interception rate (2.6%) was also higher (2.2%). Considering he was playing in a baptism by fire, with his top receivers hobbled, and playing for an unimaginative head coach, it was an encouraging first year.

Backup QB: Long-time Washington backup Colt McCoy will be Jones' backstop this year, and likely will transition into the NFL coaching ranks in a season or two. McCoy is neither a physical marvel nor a gifted passer, but he's smart, mature, and will serve as another quarterback coach to aid Jones' development. Alex Tanney rounds out the quarterback room, assuming he can fend off undrafted rookie Case Cookus. Cooper Rush, who served as Dak Prescott's No. 2 the last few seasons, follows Jason Garrett to New York and hopes to win the No. 3 spot.

Running Backs

Starter: Saquon Barkley
Backup(s): Dion Lewis, Wayne Gallman, Jonathan Hilliman
Fullback(s): Elijhaa Penny, George Aston

Starting RB: Saquon Barkley enters his third season as the centerpiece of the offense, and will attempt to re-establish his dominance after an injury-plagued second season. As a rookie, Barkley led the NFL with 2,028 yards from scrimmage and scored 15 touchdowns. Last year, Barkley dealt with a severely sprained ankle that limited him to 13 games. After rattling off 100-yard games in Weeks 1-2, Barkley scored just one touchdown and failed to hit 100 yards over the next eleven games. He regained his form in the final three games, amassing 393 yards rushing, 146 yards receiving, and five touchdowns. When healthy, Barkley is a coach's dream. He's equally comfortable running up the gut or breaking outside. And there are few, if any, better receiving backs in the league outside of perhaps Christian McCaffrey.

Backup RBs: Dion Lewis' tenure in Tennessee never amounted to much, and he'll be hard pressed to make an impact in New York. But Joe Judge saw Lewis at his best when they were both in New England, so there's a trust in having him in the running back room. Wayne Gallman returns as the emergency fill-in on first and second down. Don't be surprised if the team signs another veteran before the season.

Fullback: Elijhaa Penny is likely to reprise his role as the team's lead blocker and occasional change-of-pace contributor, unless George Aston -- a more traditional fullback -- better suits what the new coaches want from the position.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, Darius Slayton
Backups: Cody Core, Corey Coleman, Reggie White Jr, David Sills, Binjimen Victor [R], Derrick Dillon [R]

Starting WRs: Both Golden Tate and Sterling Shepard missed significant time last year, which opened the door for rookie Darius Slayton. Slayton was the 19th receiver drafted last year, but ended up one of the most productive. He caught 48 passes for 740 yards and 8 touchdowns in 14 games, and outplayed both Tate and Shepard. If all three receivers are healthy, expect Slayton to play in the slot primarily. Golden Tate has been at his career-best playing out of the slot in Detroit, but he's going to line up outside in 2020, at least initially. Tate is two seasons removed from his last 1,000-yard campaign, and has never been a prolific scorer, but at 31 years old he can still be a steady hand for Jones. Tate has a 67% career catch rate. Sterling Shepard is the X-factor. Many expected Shepard to break out after years of playing second fiddle to Odell Beckham, but 2019 was another ho-hum season. He's never had 70 catches or 900 yards in a season, and appears to have lost a step after a litany of injuries. This is a make-or-break season for Shepard, particularly with Slayton pushing hard for the No. 1 role.

Backup WRs: Depth is an issue, with veteran journeyman Corey Coleman as the presumptive No. 4. A collection of undrafted rookies and second-year players will try to catch the new coaching staff's attention. Reggie White Jr., David Sills, Binjimen Victor, Derrick Dillon, and Austin Mack are all hoping to land spots on the final roster.

Tight Ends

Starters: Evan Engram
Backups: Kaden Smith, Levine Toilolo, Eric Tomlinson, Garrett Dickerson

Evan Engram's career is moving in the wrong direction. As a rookie in 2017, Engram was dynamic. He caught 64 receptions for 722 yards and 6 touchdowns, which was the 6th-best tally by a rookie tight end in league history. Unfortunately, a lack of concentration and the injury bug capped Engram's growth. His games played, yardage, receptions, yards-per-catch, and touchdowns were all career lows in 2019. In spite of the downward trajectory, GM Dave Gettleman picked up Engram's 5th-year option for 2021. That means the team fully expects Engram to re-establish himself as a key target for Daniel Jones. Jason Garrett benefited from the All Pro talents of Jason Witten in Dallas, and will look for Engram to create mismatches against opposing linebackers and undersized defensive backs.

Place Kicker

Aldrick Rosas: Rosas wasn't impressive last year, making only 12 of 17 field goal attempts, including only 1 of 4 from 40-49 yards and a miss on his only attempt from 50+, but the Giants decided to sign him to a 3.3 million dollar second-round restricted free agent tender anyway. It's unclear why they thought they needed to protect him from other teams after a down year and why they haven't brought in any competition for him. His hold on the job should be considered shaky and he should be classified as an avoid in drafts, especially after he was arrested in a hit and run incident in June.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Corey Ballentine, Darius Slayton

In 2019, the Giants' return game featured veteran returners Jabril Peppers and Golden Tate fielding punts and late-round rookies Darius Slayton and Corey Ballentine returning kicks. With all four players under contract, New York's special teams could have a familiar feel in 2020.

Punt Returners: Golden Tate, Jabril Peppers

In 2019, the Giants' return game featured veteran returners Jabril Peppers and Golden Tate fielding punts and late-round rookies Darius Slayton and Corey Ballentine returning kicks. With all four players under contract, New York's special teams could have a familiar feel in 2020.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Nate Solder, LG Will Hernandez, C Spencer Pulley, RG Kevin Zeitler, RT Andrew Thomas [R]
Key Backups: OT Cam Fleming, OL George Asafo-Adjei, OT Matt Peart [R], OL Shane Lemieux [R], OL Nick Gates

This lineup is a bit of a projection after the draft. There will be one new starter for sure, as the team drafted tackle Andrew Thomas from Georgia with the fourth overall pick in the first round. Thomas is penciled in at right tackle, but easily could also start at left tackle, forcing Nate Solder to swap sides. The team also invested a third-round pick in right tackle Matt Peart from UConn.

Team Defense

The Giants defense was not a strength in 2019, with 36 sacks, 16 takeaways and one defensive score, and rankings of 26th in yards allowed and 30th in points allowed, and the team is transitioning to a new defense again with the hire of Joe Judge and his defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. Judge and Graham will utilize a hybrid front that mixes 3-4 and 4-3 looks depending on game script. The team is strong at defensive tackle, but needs production from Leonard Williams, who they franchised tagged and traded a third-round pick for last year. Blake Martinez was added in free agency to upgrade the constant problem area at linebacker and James Bradberry gives the team a No. 1 corner after they released Janoris Jenkins during the 2019 season. Second round pick Xavier McKinney (Alabama) can fit in multiple spots and should help right away, but this is still a below average unit, which is reflected in their end of the draft ADP in best ball leagues.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Leonard Williams, NT Dalvin Tomlinson, DE Dexter Lawrence
Backups: DE B.J. Hill, NT Chris Slayton, DE Austin Johnson, DE R.J. McIntosh, DE Niko Lalos [R]

Starting DL: Leonard Williams switched New York teams last season and, while he didn't fill up the box score as a member of the Giants, he showed enough potential to earn a franchise tag designation. When utilized correctly, Williams is the kind of two-way lineman that should be perfect for Patrick Graham's hybrid defensive system. Williams can occupy two blockers when focused, but needs to become a better finisher in pass rushing situations. Dexter Lawrence was fantastic as a rookie, grading out better than Williams in nearly every facet of the position. The new coaches should find creative ways to utilize Lawrence's freakish athleticism at his nearly 350-pound size. Dalvin Tomlinson is smaller than Lawrence, but is a more traditional nose tackle. He's hard to get off the line with a single blocker.

Backup DL: B.J. Hill won't start, but he graded out as a top-20 interior defender last year in 486 snaps, and provides the Giants with a high-end rotational option at both 3-4 end, 3-4 tackle, and 4-3 tackle. Chris Slayton made the team last year but is inexperienced, while Austin Johnson enters his fifth season (his first in New York) clinging to a roster spot.

Linebackers

Starters: SLB Kyler Fackrell, ILB David Mayo, ILB Blake Martinez, WLB Lorenzo Carter
Backups: OLB Oshane Ximines, ILB Ryan Connelley, ILB Tae Crowder [R], ILB Josiah Tauefa, OLB Devante Downs, OLB Carter Coughlin [R], ILB T.J. Brunson [R], OLB Cam Brown [R], Oluwole Betiku [R], Dana Levine [R], Dominique Ross [R]

Starting LBs: Blake Martinez was a tackling machine in Green Bay; he tallied 144 or more combined tackles in each of the last three seasons. He'll have plenty of opportunities to gobble up tackles as the Giants mammoth defensive line funnels plays to him. But Martinez isn't a complete player, and can be a liability against the run often making tackles after runners have gotten positive yardage. David Mayo, on the other hand, is coming off a career year thanks to playing the run exceptionally well. Mayo was a part-timer through four seasons but started 13 games last season and was arguably the team's most consistent linebacker. New coordinator Patrick Graham is hoping to unlock Lorenzo Carter by committing to the pass rush. The prior coaching staff lined Carter up all over the field and asked him to cover far too often. He's at his best when he can use his strength and leverage to get to the quarterback. Kyler Fackrell, another former Packer, is projected as the strongside starter, but his playing time is far from secure.

Backup LBs: GM Dave Gettleman made it crystal clear the team needed to get better at the position. Not only did he bring in Fackrell and Martinez, but he drafted four linebackers and signed three priority rookie free agents. They all won't make the team, but when you bring in seven rookies, it's a clear signal to the returning veterans their jobs aren't safe. Cam Brown, a sixth rounder, has the best pedigree but is build more like a defensive end (6-foot-5, 233 pounds) than a coverage linebacker. The others are probably going to make the team (or not) for their special teams ability, which gives T.J. Brunson the edge as he played all three linebacker spots and safety at South Carolina. Oshane Ximines and Ryan Connelley both hope to earn larger roles in their second seasons. Ximines notched 4.5 sacks in limited opportunities, and could be a pass-rush specialist in the new defense. Connelley missed most of the season, but is a sure tackler and can read-and-react when healthy.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Deandre Baker, SS Jabrill Peppers, FS Julian Love, CB James Bradberry, NB Grant Haley
Backups: CB Sam Beal, S Sean Chandler, S Xavier McKinney [R], S Mark McLaurin, CB Corey Ballentine, CB Darnay Holmes [R], Chris Williamson [R], S Nate Ebner

Starting DBs: DeAndre Baker was a massive disappointment as a rookie. Viewed as an instant impact starter, Baker struggled in every facet of the game despite playing 970 low quality snaps. He has to take a huge leap in 2020 for the defense to show marked improvement - and he was arrested in the offseason in an armed robbery incident that could result in jail time if the initial reports are accurate. He'll have help from newly-acquired James Bradberry. The former Carolina Panther signed a massive deal to replace Janoris Jenkins, but he'll need to play more consistently than he did as a Panther to live up to his contract. Jabrill Peppers is likely the biggest beneficiary of Patrick Graham's new defensive scheme; Graham prefers to use one high safety which should mean Peppers can play close to the line and use his aggressive, forceful nature as an impact run defender. Julian Love is projected to start at free safety, but he could lose his job very soon to rookie Xavier McKinney. Grant Haley's hold on the nickel role is tenuous, but there are no obvious alternatives unless one of the later round rookies flashes in camp.

Backup DBs: McKinney was the best safety in the 2020 draft class, according to many scouts. As a Nick Saban favorite, McKinney was a centerpiece of one of college's most pro-ready, stout defenses. McKinney has the versatility to rush the passer, he's a sure and committed tackler, and is fluid in coverage. He'll be a starter sooner than later. Corey Ballentine and Sam Beal will vie for the final roster spots.